On the final day of the Department of Interior’s public comment period regarding the fate of the Bears Ears National Monument, people of faith made their support for the Monument widely known. Perspectives in the public comments emphasized the spiritual value of the Bears Ears National Monument, as well as a moral imperative to listen to tribal leadership -- especially the Bears Ears Commission. The five tribes that were instrumental in establishing the Bears Ears National Monument consider many areas within the Monument to be sacred.
More than 100 Christians with Indigenous heritage, hailing from 27 states and the District of Columbia, warned of the danger of reducing or rescinding the protections monument status gives the Bears Ears region. In their letter, they explained: “Most Christians in the United States would consider the notion absurd and abhorrent that any individual, government or a corporation could trample, shoot at, mine, or drill our graveyards, religious sanctuaries, or sacred artworks. Yet, as Indigenous people, this is a threat we know all too well. We take this threat very seriously.”
The Reverend Dr. Bradley Hauff, Missioner for Indigenous Ministries of The Episcopal Church, explained why he signed the letter: “Indigenous people have a relationship with the land that is sacred and central to our way of life. Our culture, spirituality, identity, survival, and understanding of life is centered in the Earth and the Cosmos. If the land is desecrated, so are we."
Some of the letter’s signers plan to travel to Washington, DC next week to discuss their point of view with decision-makers on the Bears Ears National Monument. Many of the decision-makers who will determine the fate of the Bears Ears National Monument practice Christianity, and the advocates are hopeful their moral appeal can make a difference.
Another letter signed by 37 religious organizations and denominations noted that “Although Secretary Zinke visited Utah for several days, he spent little more than an hour with official tribal leaders in a room. Furthermore, the official comment period was only 15 days, and only online. Without public hearings, people who primarily communicate through the oral tradition are left out.”
The religious organizations’ letter went on to encourage Secretary Zinke to “extend the comment period, host public stakeholder hearings, spend much more significant time meeting with the Bears Ears Commission on site, and to follow the Commission's original recommendation to uphold the existing boundaries of the Bears Ears National Monument.”
Other noteworthy comments included a Resolution of the Peninsula-Delaware Conference of the United Methodist Church, and dozens of clergy as well as three Bishops who added their voice among comments collected by Creation Justice Ministries: CEO and Senior Bishop Lawrence Reddick III of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Bishop Jessica Crist of the Montana Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Bishop Carroll Baltimore who served as immediate past President of the Progressive National Baptist Convention and now is a bishop in the Global United Fellowship.
Creation Justice Ministries represents the creation care policies of 38 Christian communions, including Baptists, mainline Protestants, Historically Black Churches, Peace Churches, and Orthodox communions.
Learn more about Creation Justice Ministries' work on Bears Ears National Monument at www.creationjustice.org/bears-ears
QUOTE SHEET: A FEW HIGHLIGHTS OF RELIGIOUS COMMUNITY COMMENTS ON BEARS EARS NATIONAL MONUMENT
We, as Armenians, stand with those who are oppressed and persecuted. Given our history, we understand. Secretary Zinke, given American history and what we have done to the Indigenous Peoples, we have an obligation to remember, honor, and repent. Please uphold and preserve the Bears Ears National Monument.
~ Fr. Yeprem Kelegian, Armenian Church Representative to Creation Justice Ministries, Wisconsin
“As a person of the cloth I often lament how much we are losing a sense of the sacred in our world. At times it feels that everything is being reduced to dollars and cents and that God is merely an afterthought. It is my work to help people to connect with God and commit to being in community with their fellow humans. It is for this reason that I stand in solidarity with my indigenous brothers and sisters. They are trying to protect something sacred, a place where they feel the presence of the creator. If the government wanted to use our church for commercial purposes I would take umbrage with that, so I have to defend the rights of other religious groups to protect those places where they commune with God.
In March, I was in Germany celebrating the 500th Anniversary of Martin Luther's nailing of the 95 Theses. It was great to honor that tradition but also sad to see how few Germans are people of faith. In this time where faith is dwindling in so many places we must protect religious expression. I hope you will stand with the indigenous faith communities against the incursion of commercial interests that seek to defile the sacred for financial profit.”
~ Rev. Mariama White-Hammond, Pastor, Bethel AME Church, Massachusetts
“Open spaces are essential to a healthy society, and the deep spirituality for all persons, no matter their religious affiliation, is healing and revitalizing. Bears Ears is one of those spaces that needs to be protected, cared for by the original inhabitants, and respected by everyone. The earth is not a 'big box store' from which we can take, take and take. It is a living entity providing us with everything we need, but it does not exist to satisfy greed. Protect ALL our national monuments, our public lands, and expand them for protection and joyful living. This is critical. Life depends on you. Protect life.”
~Rev. Linda Grenfell, Maine
“I have lived among the monuments in my years in the Southwest. I have prayed under the shade of the giant sequoias and on ridge tops in national parks. When I seek God in creation I always feel him, experience him in the deep stillness of these protected lands. If you do not continue to protect them God's good creation will be greatly diminished...as will be our own spiritual health.”
~Rev. Constance McIntosh, Louisiana
“As a Christian, my commitment to Stewardship of the earth is second nature to me as is my commitment to all peoples, most especially the Native American peoples of the USA from whom our ancestors stole their land. Please don't rescind this promise of protection of their sacred lands as we have done so many times in the past. We should work together with these Native American peoples to protect their sacred sites. The Native American peoples' knowledge about our relationship to the earth runs far deeper than we know. Let's listen to them, learn from them and leave their sacred lands alone!”
~Ms. Charlotte Disher, Youth and Family Ministry Coordinator, North Carolina
Faith champions fly to Washington, DC to strengthen the voice of advocacy for Bears Ears National Monument and the Inter-Tribal Coalition of Utah. Together, we will stand firm to defend Bears Ears.
"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude". Maya Angelou
Loni is Pyramid Lake Paiute, Tohono O’odham, and Pima. She recently graduated with her Bachelor’s of Science from the University of Nevada, Reno. In the fall, she will attend Graduate school for Counseling and Education Psychology. She currently works as a Student Graduation Advocate for high school Native American Students in Washoe County School District in Nevada. Proud member of Saint Mary the Virgin Episcopal Church. Loni has two daughters that love to learn and practice their traditional teachings from their elders of their Tribe.
About this Blog
This blog shares the activities of Creation Justice Ministries. We educate and equip Christians to protect, restore, and rightly share God's creation.